Lantau Island: The other side of Hong Kong

Lantau Island is not the Hong Kong you expect. When someone says “Hong Kong” you probably think of glistening skyscrapers stretching towards the heavens, and densely packed urban life. Or, maybe you think of protests. Or maybe even Bruce Lee. I don’t know what goes on in that head of yours.

Lantau Island is Hong Kong, but it’s not that Hong Kong. The airport’s there, and so is Hong Kong Disney Land. But I didn’t go to Disney Land, and I’m not really into hanging out in airports. Instead, we took a taxi to a charming little village by the sea.

Tong Fuk

Tong Fuk village rests on the other side of Lantau Island from the airport. I know, I know, there are plenty of jokes we can make about the name. Take a moment and laugh to yourself so we can get that out of the way now.

The village is little more than a few houses strung out along a single road. There are a handful of little guest houses and hostels. When we went, there were only two restaurants; a local place serving pretty decent and affordable Hong Kong-style food, and an expensive steakhouse owned by an Australian where I had one of the most expensive, but best, steaks of my life. I’ll blame the exchange rate.

Make way for the water buffalo!

A little beach sat just across the road from our hostel. It was a little rocky, but a nice place to swim in the South China Sea. The water was surprisingly clean and refreshing. The weather was cloudy, but overall it was quite a beautiful place.

Other than that, there isn’t much to Tong Fuk village. That’s kind of the whole point. It’s the sort of place where stray water buffalo still wander along the streets during the day. Life moves as slowly as the water buffalo. It’s a great alternative to the glitz and glamour of one of the world’s most expensive and bustling cities.

Tai O Fishing Village

Tong Fuk was great, but to be honest, we got a little bored. Luckily, the busses on Lantau Island are easy and cheap. We hopped on a bus to the Tai O fishing village. It took about an hour, and we got a scenic view of the mountains, the reservoir, and the island’s prison as well.

Tai O village is built on the water. Literally. Most of the houses are built on stilts, standing above an estuary as it flows out into the ocean. It’s an interesting place to walk around, and also a good place to take a boat tour among the stilt houses.

The houses were all pretty old and rusty. Some looked like they were built from old bits of scrap metal. Others held on to a more traditional Chinese stilt house look. There were a few tourist shops and restaurants, but for the most part, Tai O looked like a regular village full of regular people going about their regular lives.

After our boat tour, we took a hike up to the White Dolphin viewing area. There were no forests on this hill, just tall grass that swayed in the breeze. We didn’t see any dolphins, but we did see all the way across the bay to Macau and Zhuhai in mainland China.

It’s hard to believe Lantau Island is still in Hong Kong

There’s more to Hong Kong’s Lantau island of course. We didn’t go see the Big Buddha on this trip, for example, but I’ve heard it’s worth the climb. Supposedly there’s the possibility of camping, which is tragically rare in China. And of course, there’s also Disney Land.

If you want a break from the grit and glamour of Hong Kong, Lantau island makes a nice alternative. The hills are a vibrant green. The villages are small and welcoming. The scenery and the food are fantastic.

As much as I love exploring China’s cities, lately, I’ve been missing nature more and more. There’s something special about just sitting among the green trees, admiring nature. For a few days at least, until the hustle and bustle of the city call me back.

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